English title of Choderlos de Laclos
French epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses
. It was quite popular ("between 16 and 20 editions were dated 1782") during the author's lifetime because it was so scandal
ous, but tended to be condemned or supressed for a long time afterward because of the immoral
behavior of its characters. In the 20th century
it regained popularity, and Christopher Hampton
adapted the novel into a play in 1985
. It has been made into a movie four times --
- Les liaisons dangereuses (1960) French-language version set in the modern day, directed by Roger Vadim and starring Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Philipe and Annette Vadim.
- Dangerous Liaisons (1988) starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves, and Uma Thurman; this version was based on Christopher Hampton's play and directed by Stephen Frears.
- Valmont (1990) starring Colin Firth, Annette Bening and Meg Tilly, and directed by Milos Forman.
- Cruel Intentions (1999) set in the modern day with teenage characters, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, and directed by Roger Kumble.
as well as a 1980 Slovak
TV movie (Nebezpecné známosti), an opera
by composer Conrad Susa and librettist Philip Littell; a ballet
choreographed by David Nixon to various works of Antonio Vivaldi
, and even a manga
by Higuri You, "Kamen no Romanesque
" (Romanesque Mask).
Warning: don't read further if you don't want to know how the book ends! No matter what the setting or the characters' names in the adaptations, the plot remains essentially the same as that of the book: the Marquise de Merteuil and her lover the Vicomte de Valmont play games about who can seduce people of their acquaintance. Merteuil asks Valmont if he will seduce Cecile Volanges, the innocent young fiancee of a man who has wronged her. Valmont agrees to do so, but doesn't see it as much of a challenge; he has his sights set on the virtuous Madame de Tourvel, whom no one thinks could be seduced. Merteuil occupies her time with seducing Monsieur Danceny, who is in love with Cecile Volanges himself, and the two schemers pretend to be helping Cecile and Danceny exchange correspondance.
Cecile doesn't turn out to be a difficult conquest, despite the mistrust her mother feels for Valmont. Mme. Tourvel has also been warned by Mme. Volanges about Valmont's bad reputation, but gradually Valmont's appearance of sincere love wins her over. Eventually, though, Merteuil realizes that Valmont does not just appear to love Mme. Tourvel, and manipulates him into breaking up with her, a breakup which devastates them both. Danceny finds out that Valmont has been having an affair with Cecile and challenges Valmont to a duel; Valmont is killed, but as he lies dying he gives Danceny the letters Merteuil has sent him, which prove her part in all the events. Merteuil is cast out of the society which formerly accepted her as a moral woman.
Sources (other than having read the book):